From being able to find directions to a new location in seconds, to checking the weather forecast with just one tap, technology has revolutionised our daily lives. But sometimes, it can improve lives in a more in a more meaningful capacity. Over recent years, there's been a surge of tech advancements focusing on health, with many designed to help those with various illnesses or impairments.
From Huawei's StorySign app that helps deaf children learn to read, to Virtue's VR headset created to assist people struggling with dementia, there are many ground-breaking tech products in this area.
You'll probably know Huawei for producing affordable, cutting-edge smartphones, but the Chinese company is involved in much more than creating new handsets. In fact, Huawei was ranked as the seventh-largest information technology company in the world in 2017, and it's a key player in the evolving world of artificial intelligence.
Powered by Huawei AI, Huawei has released an app known as StorySign which is designed to help deaf children learn how to read. Supported by the European Union of the Deaf and the British Deaf Association, the app translates words in an ever-growing range of stories into sign language, with the help of the friendly animated avatar known as Star.
As children work their way through a story, Star will be there to sign every single word. Using motion capture technology, both Star's facial expressions and hands deliver perfect sign language to make things easy, and enjoyable, for children.
All you need to do is download the StorySign app onto your phone, browse the library, grab a compatible book from your bookshelf and open it up. Hold your device over a page, and StorySign will capture the printed words and begin to translate.
Living with epilepsy can be extremely difficult, and at times life-threatening, but Empatica is working hard to help. The company's seizure detection system comes in the form of a wearable device that looks exactly like a smart watch, and uses advanced machine learning to detect unusual patterns that may lead to seizures.
FDA approved and rigorously tested to deliver extremely accurate results, the Embrace smartband measures multiple indicators of a convulsive seizure. Partnered with the Alert App, Empatica's Embrace device will instantly notify an assigned caregiver when it detects unusual activity via a call and SMS, ensuring help will always be available even when the epilepsy patient is alone. Embrace owners can also download the Mate App, which helps wearers keep track of daily rest and physical activity and monitors seizure activity.
Virtue LookBack VR
VR can transport you to any place, at any given time. Whether you want to visit a whole new world, see what life might look like in the future or head back into the past, the possibilities really are endless. And while VR's outstanding ability to recreate reality can be great fun, the technology has also been found to be an effective tool for combatting dementia too.
Virtue Health, an award-winning start-up from the minds of University of Oxford alumni Arfa Rehman and Scott Gorman, launched LookBack in 2018 - a virtual reality app that combines reminiscence therapy with VR. The VR headset has the ability to tailor experiences to the individual, and can either take those with dementia back to place they once knew or help them relive their fondest memories.
It's a huge step forward from traditional reminiscence therapy, which involves using items like photos and books to help dementia patients improve their cognitive and mental health. VR adds a whole new element to the treatment, with early research showing the technology to be highly effective.
There's also a LookBack app available, so the headset user can share the experience or hand over control to a loved one.
Apple's EKG feature for the Apple Watch
Apple changed the game with the release of the Apple Watch Series 4, transforming its smart watch offering from an impressive fitness tracker to a reliable medical device that could potentially save lives. With the addition of a built-in electrocardiogram (known as an ECG or EKG for short) the Apple Watch Series 4 now has the ability to detect abnormal heart rhythms which can be a sign of atrial fibrillation or serious conditions that may lead to a stroke or other issues.
When an abnormal rhythm is recorded by the Apple Watch Series 4, it'll alert the wearer so they can seek out professional medical advice. With thousands of heart problems remaining undiagnosed every year, this piece of tech is a fantastic tool to help people seek treatment early.
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